Sunday 10 August 2014

Blog Tour Stop - The Betelgeuse Oracle‏ by Joseph Macchiusi

As part of his blog tour promoting the release of 'The Betelgeuse Oracle' Joseph Macchiusi has provided a guest post about the end of the world. Discover more below:

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The End of the World! (To Be Read in a Manic, Guttural Mike Loades Voice)

Just past midnight on July 22, 2014 I was lying in bed, unable to sleep. I heard three loud bangs, maybe a block away. Immediately my limbic mind scrambled to overlay some bullshit explanation. Anything but acknowledge the patent truth that somebody was firing a gun in our neighbourhood. Five minutes later, the roar of a police chopper beat the crap out of my weak avoidance mechanism. Its piercing spotlight seemed to put the whole ’hood onscreen. We do that, don’t we? At all times, we superimpose images of how any given situation will appear packaged on satellite, cable, online. I’m wondering if that’s paranoia or narcissism. Maybe some kind of hideous hybrid, the mucous mutant spawned from the bowels of media producers.

The same goes for most of our notions about what The End of the World! will look/feel/sound/smell like. It’s a subject we’re more than a little obsessed with. In the popular imagination, probable apocalypses are a neck-and-neck horserace between zombie and climatic versions. (This morning my son is trying on a leather jacket hand-me-down from his uncle. He comments on the sturdy weight of the leather. “This is just what I need for the zombie apocalypse!”) So, when I heard those shots and then watched that helicopter make pass after pass over my house, I naturally wondered: could this be the beginning of the end?

The End of the World! How will it first manifest? My bet is it will be something that we completely missed. So there won’t be any mounting panic as cable/satellite “news” anchors pilot us through the evidence of our doom. No, it will first become evident through a few gunshots, or the crunch of colliding cars. Or maybe something completely alien, something for which our simian brains and sensory apparatus are totally unprepared. Imagine, if you will, a new star burning in thedaytime sky!

Twelve hours after hearing those gunshots, I was giving a seminar on my apocalyptic novel, The Betelgeuse Oracle, to a grade 12 English class. Jim Stewart, Department Head of English at St. Theresa high school in Richmond Hill, Ontario, has very kindly put my book on the reading list for that course. This being summer school, and a bunch of kids who had volunteered to take the course (instead of being forced into it by failure), the environment was most friendly, relaxed. The students asked some very incisive questions. One of the subjects that surfaced was the issue of preparedness. A couple of the students were refreshingly squeamish about the gun violence presented in the story. I asked them to consider how far they would go to survive, or to ensure the survival of loved ones. I argued that we can never truly be ready for The End of the World! That what we think we know about such an event – or any event – is mostly a junkyard of impressions and memories from movies, TV, books, articles, websites, commercials (mostly). Even the Romans were so locked into their own delusional 5th century reality that when the end of their world arrived, most people didn’t even recognize it as “The End”. Their preconceptions were brutally suppressed as the population of the city collapsed from over a million to less than thirty-five thousand in just a few decades.

What would Toronto look like under those circumstances? New York? London? (Insert-your-home-metropolis here.)

James Muir, the protagonist in The Betelgeuse Oracle, describes his most terrifying memory of post-apocalyptic Toronto: “Definitely my first encounter with the Dog Man. I was already torn up from the final realization that my family was gone, my home destroyed. The Dog Man chose that moment of my most naked vulnerability to make his first appearance. And let me tell you this: any time you meet up with your mother’s undead fuckbuddy with some kind of twisted team mascot dog’s head sewn onto its severed neck – that is going to make a terrible day even worse. Cowering in the burned-out basement of the house where I had been raising my family – with the Dog Man blasting away at me with his shotgun! Fun wow! Something akin to that awful certainty you’re about to puke – I knew for certain it was just a matter of time before the Dog Man and I would face each other in mortal combat. And I was sure he would slaughter me.”

Well…thanks for sharing, James…

(As I type this, the desolate tolling of the local church bell. A funeral: the security against total post-modern deconstruction. Irrespective of perception, this is our final full stop.)

I think it’s fair to say that when The End of the World! arrives, there will be a lot of shooting. We Canadian North Americans tend to be a little smug in forgetting that rates of firearm ownership here are comparable to those in the U.S. (Undoubtedly, there are fewer handguns in the mix, but there are still more than enough). So, when you read The Betelgeuse Oracle, be ready. Prepare for the eerie midnight creep of knowing and yet not knowing. The Dog Man is coming!

Sure enough, the morning after the police chopper, the CBC was full of it. (Get it?) The usual crowd of shouting, manicured heads: a police shooting in Newmarket, Ontario! One man in hospital, seriously injured! A short clip of a man telling how he heard three bangs. It could be me. Another North American (var. Canadian) male awake in bed. Hearing, rationalizing, recording. Adding to our collective archetype. This plays right into our paranoid narcissism, plugging us into each other, reinforcing our itchy onscreen fantasies of being onscreen. We long to perceive our realities as prepackaged, ready-made. Even before being presented onscreen, our society is carefully produced. It is obvious that we have become hives for a teeming variety of commercial memes. I doubt this makes us any better prepared than the Romans were for The End of the World!

Click here to purchase The Betelgeuse Oracle from Amazon

Every civilization has ended in collapse. Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome. All were sophisticated cultures brought low by unanticipated forces greater than themselves. 

What forces hasten the collapse of our civilization? Not nuclear war, or climate change, or even an asteroid strike. 

For millions of years the supergiant star Betelgeuse has waited patiently on Orion's right shoulder. Now its moment has arrived. It severs the single thread suspending Western civilization over a great abyss. 

Something we take for granted disappears forever. Everything changes now that it is gone. Electronic equipment fails. Aircraft plummet from the sky. Motors cease to work. Distances that seem trifling by car become days-long slogs. Food and water are scarce. Forces awaken that have remained dormant for centuries. In a matter of hours, Western civilization teeters and falls. 

James Muir is trapped in the midst of this huge calamity. Struggling to reunite with his wife and young daughters, he suffers bizarre, overpowering visions. A mysterious Voice berates him in ancient Egyptian. Amazed, he comprehends its command to embark on a quest for something it identifies only as 'the Stone.'

Hunted by cadres of well armed, highly trained militiamen, haunted by the erosion of his own sanity, James flees urban warfare, riot and pillage. He joins a group of desperate strangers, united to escape a metropolis transformed into a burning, violent wasteland. 

But what awaits them beyond the fringes of the city? The further they get, the stronger is the painful tug exerted by the Voice on James's exhausted mind. As strangers grow into friends and lovers, James comes to realize that the thing called the Stone has a fanatical will of its own. Even if he survives the trek, he may not be strong enough to match the Stone's baffling power. 

The Betelgeuse Oracle is a sweeping saga of loss and heroism, mysticism and visceral horror. Reading this novel will change the way you see the world.

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